5 Ways to Play with Seashells

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I’m so excited to have Ann from Little Worlds here today to share her gorgeous homemade play ideas for 5 Ways to Play with Seashells. Ann’s blog is gorgeous and inspirational – please do check it out, you’ll be glad you did.

5 Ways to Play with Seashells - Perfect Summer Fun Ideas for Kids, including Summer Sensory Activities for kids

Hello! I’m Ann. I’m an occupational therapist, mother of two little ones and creative play enthusiast. I mostly run around in circles all day, trying to keep up with my family. In my ‘spare’ time I blog and design/create toys. I’m also Belgian, and yes, I eat chocolate every day!

Like most families we absolutely love going to the beach. We love everything about it: the sea breeze, the sound of the waves that calms our minds, the spacious beaches for the children to run around, the freezing cold water that touches our feet, the sand that gets everywhere and the seashells we all love collecting.

We live in Wellington, New Zealand and are surrounded by beaches so we have built up quite the collection of seashells.

I’d love to share with you today our favourite ways of playing with seashells. These are activities that we go back to over and over again because they are simple and sweet. Just as we like them.

Exploring Seashells on the Light Table

If you don’t have light table, don’t worry, making one is super easy. Exploring any kind of material on the light table offers children a completely different perspective. And that is no different for seashells.

I love how a light table can create the perfect opportunity to present children with loose parts and invite them to engage in self directed play.

My little girl spent quite a bit of time playing with her seashells by herself.

She took her time looking at the seashells, seeing which ones ‘let the light through’.  She then decided to sort them. This is a great opportunity to further explore the topic of seashells, find out what they are made of, what their purpose is and learn how to identify them.

Since New Zealand’s coastlines can be rough and rocky, we also have a huge collection of rocks and driftwood. My daughter decided to add them to her exploration table. She then started pretending there were hermits looking for a new shell. And within minutes there were all sorts of things happening in the ‘hermit village’.

Using Seashells to Set up a Small World

If you happen to be familiar with my blog Little Worlds, you’ll know we are big fans of small world play. We are known to grab just about any opportunity to set up a small world.

Ocean and beach themed small worlds are hugely popular with little children. Beach days usually hold many good memories of family fun and the underwater world speaks to the imagination.

The small world you see in the image is a very simple one, which you can easily recreate at home.

I used a serving tray with handles, covered the bottom with some blue and brown scraps of fabric. I put glass gems over the blue fabric representing water. Then I poured corn couscous (which my toddler poured on the ground earlier that day!) over the brown fabric, representing yellow sand.

We added some rocks, driftwood and seashells and got out some of our Playmobil people.

The seashells are often used as treasures that are discovered or need to be hidden. And sometimes they are used as plates at the beach picnic. Other times they are boats or surf boards. Every time I think I’ve heard it all, my daughter (who has a vivid imagination) will come up with something new.

I love nothing more than to quietly listen to her stories!

If you’d like to learn more about small world play, I wrote an entire article explaining the many ways it can help your child’s development and how you can easily get started with small world play at home. You can read it here.

Making Seashell Imprints in Clay

Making seashell imprints in clay is such a great activity. Clay lends itself so well for imprint making because it’s a lot harder than play dough and the imprint left will look a lot more detailed.

This is another perfect opportunity for learning how to identify different seashells by their characteristics.

The clay we used is air drying so it would be very easy to make a little necklace or wall decoration out of a particularly beautiful imprint. Children love making little treasures like that and they make great keepsakes!

But on this day we just had some fun with the seashells and the clay. My daughter made lots and lots of imprints, faces, houses and particularly liked making little mandala like patterns. (Which were unfortunately destroyed as quickly as they were made!)

Seashells in the Beach Themed Sensory Bin

This is an activity my toddler really enjoys. The last time we were at our favourite beach, I brought home two bags of sand. I put it in the big sensory bin and we added all sorts of other things we found on our local beach. It had been storming the previous week so we were lucky to find some great bits and pieces of driftwood and seaweed.

I like the idea of recreating little bits of nature that are relevant to your daily life in sensory bins. My toddler recognises things like kelp and paua because he sees them often. When he has the opportunity to play with these items at home, he’ll take more time to really explore them with all of his senses. And that gives you me opportunity to help him verbalise his experiences.

(A little heads up here: seaweed can have a particular smell, so don’t leave it IN the house!)

Making a Mobile out of Seashells

My absolute favourite I’m a crafty kind of girl and my daughter has inherited my love of tinkering. This is a project we did together, and we couldn’t more proud of the result (even though it’s all about the process!).

We took the inner half of an embroidery hoop and wrapped simple white string around it. We choose three shades of blue from my embroidery floss collection and we selected a couple of seashells and beads.

We then just strung them on and tied knots where we wanted the beads and seashells to stay seated.

It’s a very easy little craft project that looks really cute!

Using seashells in art and craft work is a great way to bring some of the calm and beauty from nature inside your home.


Have Fun!

I hope you enjoyed reading about our favourite seashell activities and that you may find yourself inspired to plan a day at the beach if you can. Or maybe you can get your hands on some seashells and use some of these activities in your school projects.

I’m sure there are many more seashell play ideas and I’d love to hear about your favourites. We’re always keen to try out something new or rediscover an old love!

Thanks so much for your time today and I hope to e-see you again soon.



In case you would like to read more from the Little Worlds blog, here are some of my most popular posts:


Underwater Small World

Kids Art Work Embroidery

Kids Art Work Embroidery

Treasure Basket Play

Treasure Basket Play

You’re welcome to visit the Little Worlds blog here. You can also join the creative play community on Facebook, follow my trail of play inspiration on Pinterest and see what we get up to during the week on Instagram.

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  1. I love the prints in clay. We go to the beach every summer and come back with a baggie full of seashells. I would love to work them in to our learning time. This post also makes me want a light table!

  2. These ideas a re fantastic. I particularly love the seashell mobile, it looks so pretty 🙂 weloveweekends

  3. These are great ideas for hands on play!

    Thank you for stopping by the Thoughtful Spot Weekly Blog Hop this week. We hope to see you drop by our neck of the woods next week!

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